LONDON (Reuters) - The birth of twins Charlene Riva and Myla Rose was supposed to mark the moment when their dad Roger Federer lost his appetite to win titles — at least that is what the all-conquering Swiss’s rivals were hoping for.
No such luck.
Exactly a month after Federer first set eyes on his baby girls, the world number one appears to have mastered the art of coping with sleepless nights and showed he was still the man to beat when he won the Cincinnati Masters on Sunday.
The victory has put him in the perfect frame of mind as he seeks a record-equaling sixth successive title at the U.S. Open which begins on Monday.
Federer will arrive at Flushing Meadows with a bigger entourage and with the biggest career questions answered. In an incredible six-week spell from May to July, he won the only major title he lacked, the French Open, and broke Pete Sampras’s grand slam title record by capturing his 15th at Wimbledon.
“It’s been an amazing summer in my personal life and also on court. So I guess it’s sometimes still hard to believe I was able to win Paris and Wimbledon back-to-back,” said Federer.
“It definitely came at the right time. I think getting back to number one with the Wimbledon win... it was amazing. And being number one in the world and having twin girls, it’s something that doesn’t happen every day.
“I don’t see anything changing because of the twins. But that definitely has an impact on my life. So far it’s a very positive impact and it’s not pulling me away from the game. So I’m positive about my tennis future.”
These were not exactly the words the chasing pack in men’s tennis wanted to hear. They had hoped that family life would divert the 28-year-old’s attention away from the tennis courts, just as former world number one Boris Becker had predicted.
“(Fatherhood) changes (your) life dramatically,” Becker, who won the 1996 Australian Open after the birth of his first son Noah, said earlier this year.
“It would be more difficult to focus on one thing alone because your main focus is for your child and your wife, and tennis becomes secondary. That’s a fact.”
Former England rugby player Austin Healey summed up the feeling of many professional athletes by saying: “I immediately felt my edge had disappeared and I knew from that point on it would be very difficult to keep playing rugby at the highest level.”
If the tennis annals are to be believed, the arrival of the Federer twins could seriously dent the world number one’s chances of adding to his collection of grand slam titles.
The last time a mother won a singles grand slam crown was in 1980 when Australian Evonne Goolagong triumphed at Wimbledon. Since then, only eight men have captured a major after embracing the joys of fatherhood.
While four — Pat Cash, Andres Gomez, Petr Korda and Albert Costa — were one-slam wonders, multiple champions Becker, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andre Agassi managed to add just one further slam to their haul after becoming parents.
Jimmy Connors was the only singles player to successfully combine family life with tour commitments in that time, winning three of his eight majors after the birth of his son Brett.
For the likes of John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg, the titles dried up as soon as they gingerly cradled the new additions to their families. Tennis fathers have won only 10 of the last 117 grand slam titles.
But Edberg believes Federer’s pedigree sets him apart from everyone else and will allow him to buck the trend.
“Statistics tell you something of the past, it doesn’t tell you the future,” six-times grand slam champion Edberg, who will be competing in The Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December, told Reuters.
“I think the biggest relief for Roger was probably winning the French Open. That’s really extended his career, I really believe so.
“He’s got the confidence, he’s got the momentum and I think having twins could have a positive effect, at least to start with that’s for sure, so I don’t see any problems for him at the U.S. Open.”
Agassi, the last father to win a slam at the 2003 Australian Open, concurred: “He seems pretty clear what he wants to accomplish and he’s been committed to those goals. I trust it (fatherhood) could be a level of inspiration to him.
“When they are babies, and you can take them along and enjoy being together on the road, it added a lot to me. Sometimes rest is a challenge but if you do it right, it’s manageable.”
Editing by Dave Thompson. To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org